There’s been a shift regarding music’s role in the world of digital marketing and commerce. And I have to admit, I like what I hear.

The digital turn of music distribution got annoying when people talked about jettisoning hard copies in favor of futuristic alternatives like “buying songs over your phone.” To me, acquiring music means enjoying liner notes, cover art, and a hard copy of the tunes in hand—a full experience you just can’t get purchasing music with a portable device. (And don’t get me started on the “rental” model whereby consumers only own the music they’ve purchased as long as they keep paying for subscriptions to the service.)

Happily, I think most music-lovers feel the same way. And that means sellers of music will need to engage mobile consumers, ideally with targeted text messages. Here’s why.

Point one: An eMarketer report says that mobile music’s marketing benefits outweigh the fact that consumers don’t plan to buy songs as voluminously as had been hoped. “Bands and artists are increasingly using mobile to form direct relationships with their fans that are then monetized through other means, such as tickets to live shows, merchandise, and fan clubs,” eMarketer analyst John du Pre Gauntt says. “Given consumers’ reluctance to pay for music on their phones, marketers are finding new opportunities to partner directly with carriers, labels, and even music artists themselves.”

Point two: The lauded Pandora-Apple partnership has resonated with users. The Internet radio service—which uses an algorithm to pick songs that a listener would mostly likely enjoy—was made available for free for the first time on a mobile phone, specifically the iPhone, when the latest model of the handset went on sale. Adweek reports that because of this pairing, Pandora has registered 180,000 new users; seen more than 200,000 new personal stations created on the iPhone; and streamed 3.3 million songs to iPhone users since launching its mobile application on July 11. Marketers must be champing at the bit as Pandora is set to unveil a mobile advertising platform later this year.

Point three: The big question for marketers is how to leverage this engaged audience. I believe that music on cell phones—whether downloaded from the walled garden or streamed over the mobile Internet—should be boosted with advertisements such as SMS messaging.

Messaging already offers sense of intimacy between brands and consumers. Imagine its impact when paired the relationship-building music. Those who sell music (artists, labels) can elicit message subscriptions from fans by promising exclusive news, special sales promotions, secret shows, new online videos, and the like. They can promote such text and/or email subscriptions by advertising in traditional media—as well as during music play itself. After all, eMarketer says that the ad-supported model of mobile music will grow greatly, with marketers spending $1.5 billion to subsidize music in 2012.

Either by sponsoring themselves, or by having their music sponsored by someone else, it seems artists will enjoy invaluable branding. And that’s worth more than revenue generated from one-time sales of a song.

Eydie Cubarrubia, Marketing Communications Manager, mobileStorm
“I’d rather you text me”